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An unpredictable subject

Off the field, Phillip Hughes was too shy to photograph well, but on it he was exciting - which too made the photographer's job difficult

Philip Brown
Philip Brown
Phillip Hughes cuts, Sussex v Australians, Hove, 2009

Philip Brown

I must say from the outset that I didn't know Phillip Hughes really well. He first seemed to burst into the cricket world after scoring two centuries for Australia in a Test in Durban. It was a real statement of intent. Against an impressive South African attack he hit 34 fours and five sixes in that one Test. Australian Test player number 408 had arrived.
Soon after, Hughes signed to play for Middlesex. It was a controversial signing, as some thought it was ridiculous to give this young Australian a chance to play in English conditions just before the important 2009 Ashes series. I'm sure Hughes just wanted to play cricket. He was a quiet country boy from New South Wales and his father grew bananas.
I travelled to Lord's, my 13-year-old son Rory in tow, with the intention of taking a nice portrait of Hughes. I managed to grab the friendly but very shy opening batsman after a Middlesex net session. I must admit that in photo terms I had a complete shocker and didn't actually get a photograph of him that I was at all happy with. It was the photographic equivalent of being out first ball.
I did manage to shoot him a couple of times in matches in the lead-up to the Test series, and a very exciting batsman he was to photograph. He played shots that no one else played.
Hughes was difficult to photograph as he was unpredictable. He could hit a ball absolutely anywhere. It seemed harder to be in the right place at the right time when he was batting. That's why I was so pleased that I had chosen the right place with a really nice background at Hove.
He was in and out of the Australian team for the next five years. His aggressive play was both his strength and his weakness. He played some audacious shots but also seemed reckless in his choice of shots.
Hughes was playing for South Australia at the SCG on Tuesday and was on 63 runs when struck in the neck by a bouncer. My thoughts go out to all the players, umpires and spectators who witnessed this tragedy from close range at that very famous ground.
It is rare for a cricketer to leave the field after their final innings with a star in the record books next to their name. Phillip also left that field with an unbelievable amount of love being showered on him by team-mates, opponents, spectators and the sport-loving world.
It is such a sad way to pass but perhaps there is the tiniest crumb of comfort that he was playing cricket, a sport he obviously loved, with and against his mates and at a ground that every cricketer and fan adores. Phillip Hughes died aged 25 years and 362 days. Phillip Hughes died "not out".
Nikon D3 camera 600mm lens at f4.5 1/1250th sec ISO 250

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world